Check in to a 'cave palace' built into a giant boulder in the Northern Cape
City slicker Jennifer Platt delights in the stillness — and unique accommodation — to be found at Naries Namakwa Retreat
There is beauty in quiet. It's not obvious at first, but when you drive away and leave the city and the bustle behind, you slowly come to enjoy the silence of the countryside.
That's what I took in when I was at Naries Namakwa Retreat: the quiet. It warmed a cold, patchy place in me created by the languishing mehness of this past year, all through which I'd been stuck in my small city bubble.
I'd never really thought about the Northern Cape before, never mind actually having been to that part of the country — so it was a rare treat to visit Naries, a privately owned 6,000ha farm between Springbok and Kleinzee.
BUT FIRST, CAPE TOWN
But before we get there, it's totally the “journey not the destination” vibes.
The drive is about six hours from the Cape Town CBD so, after a flight from Joburg, I spend a night at the snazzy Hippo Boutique Hotel. The plan is to set out for the Northern Cape the next day at the break of dawn.
The hotel is in the city centre, just off Kloof Street. My room is super-fancy. It's called the Mini Cooper Suite, and it's luxury with touches of pop art.
It's a fully serviced hotel, but it has an office and a kitchenette so is perfect for a longer stay if you are in the Mother City for business.
We (a few other journalists and I) take advantage of the central location and ride the cable car up nearby Table Mountain (R380 per return ticket for an adult).
It's misty and the famous tablecloth is making its presence known. After a few refreshing (ie chilly) hours strolling about and taking in the views, we head down and get ready for Thali just next door to the hotel.
Being a Joburger, I have no idea this is the Indian eatery that people are clamouring to get into. Go early — they open at 5pm, and they don't take bookings.
Thali means tapas and offers chef Liam Tomlin's take on Indian sharing food. It's served as a set menu for two of eight small sharing plates or bowls, progressing from mild to very spicy. I'm a mean curry cook myself and don't believe it should be all la-di-da, but Thali proved me wrong. There was a spiced cauliflower dish, a lentil something or other and a lamb curry that was the absolute best I have tasted (sorry mom!).
Even though it was a generous meal there were no leftovers for padkos the next day.
If you drive through the Northern Cape in August and September, you're likely to find magnificent fields of wildflowers that will take your breath away. Now it's slightly barren and there's a certain elegance in that. Bushes are sprinkled about, knee high, with yellow or orange flowers dotted here and there as a reminder and a promise of the flower season.
About 27km before our destination, we pass the small town of Springbok. As soon as you hit that road, it's a different setting altogether. Open the windows and the smell of fynbos wafts in. There's no need for those fussy diffusers and air purifiers to mask the smoky pungency of the Joburg winter air. The sky here is a beautiful robin-egg blue, dotted with fluffy clouds, and the air is clean, fresh and fragrant.
The Naries Namakwa Retreat, dedicated to conservation and sustainable living, consists of three different types of accommodation: classic rooms in a Cape Dutch-style manor, self-catering cottages suitable for families, and the luxurious Mountain Suites.
Do yourself a favour and try to get a Mountain Suite. There are three of them and each sleeps two. They're something special: domed, thatched and built into magnificent granite boulders, stepping inside is like being in your own cave palace. The decor reflects the outside: simple, elegant and rustic.
Naries is a perfect place to take some quiet, reflective time to rejuvenate, or to spend with that special loved one.
Sit on the deck with a book and a glass of wine (each unit is equipped with a tea and coffee station and a small bar fridge) and take in the view of the plains below.
Meals are served at the Manor House, about 1km away, so an easy walk to and fro. There are clear pathways but everything else looks as if it hasn't been touched for hundreds of years. The food — breakfast, lunch and dinner — is hearty and delicious.
Surrounded by valleys and mountains, Naries is spectacular. There's plenty to do, if that's what you are looking for. We hike up the Spektakelberg and reach a lookout point for sunset. There's a couch, snacks and G&Ts. Peace and perfection.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
WHERE TO STAY:
Naries Namakwa Retreat: The Mountain Suites are R1,910 pps, dinner, bed and breakfast. DB&B in the Manor House is from R1,210 pps.
Winter special: 20% discount on a two-night booking, valid until the end of July.
Hippo Boutique Hotel: Suites R950 — R2,500 for a couple sharing.
WHAT TO DO:
- From Naries Namakwa Retreat you can drive to the Atlantic seaboard about 60km away.
- Explore the greater Namakwa region from the Richtersveld in the north to the shipwrecks in the west.
- Some of the amazing activities at and near to Naries include wild flower tours in season, river rafting, hiking, birdwatching, stargazing and game viewing — or just relax next to the swimming pool.
• Platt was a guest of Cape Country Routes, of which Naries Namakwa Retreat is a member.